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SCV water officials puzzle over how to become water cops

Posted: July 29, 2014 7:16 p.m.
Updated: July 29, 2014 7:16 p.m.

When California water officials approved strict emergency water conservation regulations earlier this month, they put the responsibility of enforcing those rules on local water agencies.

Santa Clarita Valley water agencies met Tuesday to debate ways to enforce the water regulations — to fine those guilty of half a dozen “prohibited activities” identified by the state and in the agencies’ own emergency water plan.

In effect, how to become water cops.

Violations are clear: hosing down driveways, washing cars without shut-off nozzles, allowing water to run onto sidewalks and streets. Fines could mount up to $500 a day.

“What’s to stop people sneaking their irrigation on at one in the morning?” Newhall County Water District board member Maria Gutzeit asked the committee. “How would we catch that?”

Dan Masnada, general manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency, answered: “People will rat each other out. I hate to use that phrase but that’s what it is.”

He added: “Our goal is not to penalize people, but it’s good to put people on notice about the fines. Hopefully, our target is compliance and not simply collecting 50 bucks in fines.”

During the meeting at Castaic Lake Water Agency headquarters in Saugus, Gutzeit pointed out the impracticality of patrolling for water overuse.

“If I wanted to water my lawn on the wrong days I would set my sprinkler for midnight to 3 a.m. Who is out patrolling at that time?

“Even my neighbors wouldn’t care,” she said. “If we want our neighbors to rat each other out, who should they call? My hunch is they’ll end up calling the wrong number, calling the city or the wrong agency.

“Is there a hot-line or centralized number we can use?” she said. “It might be more efficient if we had a controlled (phone) number.”

Other communitiesHomeowner Jenny Dermody, who attended the meeting at as a member of the public, told the committee: “Right now my incentive for conserving water is to lower my water bill.”

She also asked the committee to consider looking at other communities to see how they are complying with state regulations.

“We might want to find other communities have already invented the wheel,” she said. “That would be easier than trying to figure out a plan for ourselves.”

A draft action plan unveiled Tuesday is the one most likely to be implemented locally. Each of the four SCV water purveyors will tweak it independently and is expected to bring it back to the Santa Clarita Valley Water Committee early next month.

The committee doesn’t carry the power of enforcement but ensures valleywide collaboration on drought issues.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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